While this writer's reading program, Alpha-Phonics, has been used by thousands of homeschoolers to produce highly literate children, when it comes to writing, I have to explain to a very skeptical audience why cursive writing should be taught first and print later.
For the last three decades, I have been lecturing parents at homeschool conventioms on how to teach the three R’s: "reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic." I explain in great detail how to teach children to read phonetically through intensive, systematic phonics. In fact, my reading program, Alpha-Phonics, has been used by thousands of homeschoolers to produce highly literate children. But when it comes to writing, I have to explain to a very skeptical audience why cursive writing should be taught first and print later.
I usually start my lecture by asking parents if they think that their children ought to be formally taught to write. I explain that many educators now believe that handwriting is really an obsolete art that has been replaced by the word processor, and that it is no longer necessary to teach children to write. They imply that if a child wants to learn to write, he or she can do so without the help of any school instruction.
However, I’ve yet to meet any parents who have been sold on such questionable futuristic thinking about a basic academic skill. They all believe that their children should be taught to write. After all, no parent knows what needs their children will have for good handwriting 20 years hence. Who knows, sending handwritten thank you notes to gift givers may come back into vogue! Also, you can’t carry an expensive laptop everywhere you go.
The question then becomes: How shall we teach children to write? My answer is quite simple: Do not teach your child to print by ball-and-stick, or italic, or D’Nealian manuscript. Teach your child to write a standard cursive script. And the reason why I can say this with confidence is because that’s the way I and thousands of other children were taught to write in the first grade in New York City’s public schools back in the 1930s when teachers still knew how to teach the three R’s.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)